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Published: January 2nd 2007
To the Bat Cave!
Home to three million bats, this cave was full of guano and very stinky ...
Trace: While Mat was busy getting the blood drained out of him by jungle leaches, I decided to instead head on a shorter trip (3 day tramp) in Mulu National Park to see the limestone pinnacles, massive caves, and 3 million bats!
I ended up joining a guided trek with several other NZérs. Luckily for me, they were super friendly and one of them had a digital camera (Tim has kindly emailed me his shots!), as Mat had our camera with him for his trip to Bario.
The limestone caves at Mulu are magnificent, one has the largest cave entrance in the world. Didn't get up close and personal with any bats unfortunately, but did really enjoy watching the endless twisting ribbon of them flying out from the cave entrance just on sunset (see pic).
The three day tramp was fairly mild (fortunately for me, as my legs were still recovering from Mt Kinabalu), and involved a 2 1/2 hr walk and lovely scenic boatride on the first and third days. The second day was the trek up an extremely steep hill, climbing up parts of it using ropes, ladders etc (the hillside looked like a snakes and
And they're off to find breakfast @ 6pm
Q: How many bugs do 3 million bats eat in a night? A: 12 tonnes. Amazing!
ladders boardgame in parts) nearer the top.
The motiviation for this unreasonable climb (there have been fatalities on the steep slippery part) was for us to see the unusual limestone formations at the top of the hill, and on the hillside opposite. The land looked like a parachutist's worst nightmare! Massive, sharp, jagged spikes right the way across the hillside.
My flight out of Mulu was cancelled (this is not unusual apparently- do not fly Air Asia if you can help it - it is cheap, but ridiculously unreliable), and I nearly missed my flight to Bangkok!
All's well that ends well however, and Nicki and I managed to meet as planned in the new Bangkok airport (which Paula G's dad helped make).
The tribespeople in Mulu are from a tribe of what has been termed 'headhunters'. These guys used to have to defend their land against other tribes that were trying to expand their landholdings. As part of the fighting, they would end up killing each other (they are expert hunters with poison blowpipes and some still use this for hunting) and mounting their enemies heads on sticks stuck around the perimeter of their tribal
Our Porter's house and family
The Sarawak government is taking land from the local tribespeople,often without any recompense at all. Remind you of any other country? This shouldn't be happening still.
land as a warning to any future challengers.
One thing that I found quite disturbing (in my sheltered NZ naivety) was not the killing, nor the heads on sticks, or the fact that there are still many skulls kept in the longhouses of tribes, but that the Sarawak government is taking the land of the tribespeople, with very little recompense (for example, the equivalent of $900NZ for 14 acres of prime land). Some tribespeople are ending up with absolutely nothing, no place to live, and no money to buy somewhere new to live. Protesters have been imprisoned and subjected to torture. Sarawak is turning into a dictatorship according to several locals I spoke with.
Even worse than this, there are some tribes further in the jungle who can't access health care, as they aren't recognised as citizens in their own country. They are born in the jungle, and therefore have no birth certificates / passports / citizen identity cards. They speak their own language, not Malay and not English, so cannot read or write to fill in the forms (not that they can get to the forms in the first place). They live 100% off the land (which
Surely a parachutist's worst nightmare ...
is being destroyed at a very fast rate by logging - 70% of the world's tropical hardwood supply over the past 30 years has come from Borneo), and when they become so ill that they make the pilgrimage to a hospital (several day's travel from their village) they get landed with a bill (as a foreigner would) that they are unable to pay due to a complete lack of monetary income.
On the Mulu tribespeople's land, which encompasses the stunning, world class caves there is now an airport and tourist resorts, and rest assured the new owners of this land will be doing OK from all of this!
If anyone has any bright ideas of how we could help, please let me know.
As for our adventures in Cambodia ... horses, ox-carts, temples, amputees, temples, beggars, remote tropical islands, mars bar and bananna pancakes and temples ... well you might just have to wait for the next blog! Hope you all had a fantastics Christmas and New Years xxx trace 😊
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